Sweet potato and chickpea forbidden rice bowls with oil-free coconut lime dressing

Doesn’t the “forbidden” elevate the idea of rice? Not that simply saying black rice would be any less appealing. But “forbidden” adds a haunting mysticism that’s kind of irresistible.

Chick Peak & Black Rice (1 of 5)

It seems forbidden rice owes its name to ancient Chinese dynasties when, thought to promote longevity and good health, it was exclusively reserved for emperors. Personally, I think it could as easily come down to the way the sticky black grains tend to create a comically unsavory toothless look when they lodge in your teeth. But it’s so good. Just be sure to have a toothbrush handy when you eat it, or at the very least plan on a vigorous but discreet swish with water immediately after eating and before talking if with company.

Chick Peak & Black Rice (2 of 5)

Call it a dragon bowl, buddha bowl, hippie bowl, just a bowl; forbidden rice or black rice, whatever the names, this may be my new most favorite dish ever (for now). Power packed with good nutrition, easy to make, easier to vary, and awfully beautiful to boot. Best of all, it’s sooo satisfyingly yummy. I made it originally solely for an excuse to write down and share the dressing, adapted somewhat from a coleslaw recipe my sister made when we were visiting CT earlier this summer. It came from an issue of Milk Street Magazine, and I was so taken with that coleslaw I wanted to record it here to come back to but felt uncomfortable doing so. It just seemed like tweaking and creating something new would be more fair somehow.

Given that this meal was built expressly around a sauce, I guess the “all about the dressing” streak continues. On the other hand, this particular combination of subtly spicy chickpeas, roast sweet potatoes, caramelized red onion and greens is an absolute perfect fit. As for the dressing, it’s awfully adaptable too. I thought about including a little sesame oil, only because I doubted  there was none in the original. I’m so glad I trusted memory and left it out. It would have been a foolishly gratuitous inclusion. I did make some changes (more coconut milk, soy sauce for fish sauce, chili garlic sauce for serrano chiles), and the result was so tasty I couldn’t help licking the lid of the jar I made it in.

Chick Peak & Black Rice (3 of 5)

Speaking of mysticism (back to the whole forbidden thing), lately little F has been getting into The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. I LOVE these chapter books. Reading them to students to conclude the day is among my very dearest memories of teaching Kindergarten and something that keeps me thinking I’ll come back to it. We’d dim the lights and I’d play soft background tracks from an Enya CD to match the mood of the story. (Her album, Without Rain is the perfect pairing.) I loved that time so much that one summer, pre-parenting, I tried reading them to the same music all by myself. It wasn’t the same.

Chick Peak & Black Rice (4 of 5)

Anyway, it took me by surprise how drawn to them little F became at not quite four, but I love this shared time together so much. Recently, we’ve been reading a set of “Merlin Missions” wherein the characters Jack and Annie are tasked with finding secrets of happiness to help a sorrowful Merlin. And here I’m going to start stretching for connections in such a way that borders on unbearable, depending who you are. As I do. 

Fun morning (3 of 6)I do a lot of daydreaming while cooking. A lot of thinking and musing. Getting cheesily philosophical about “recipes for happiness” is a staple theme. It’s funny how contented we can be in our now while yet so anxious and fearful of what tomorrow might be. Since Little F was born I’ve known radiant happiness while continually quietly mourning the necessary drift. Always fervently hoping that as each new level of letting go arrives, I’ll find myself capable of whatever it is I need to be ready for. So far, it’s been alright. The other morning for instance, our keen “marching to four”-year old woke up early, and for the first time ever, he chose not to wake us up. Instead, all by himself he pulled his curtains, made his bed, got dressed (T-shirt adorably backwards), and busily set about “delivering” his stuffed animals to various locations throughout the house. I awoke hearing him bustling about and you could sense the joy in the movement. It was a milestone of independence. While my heart definitely felt  a pang, it also bloomed with pride and joy for him, as has been the case so far with all these dreaded yet special steps into his own.

That night while while cooking, my mind was wandering…there was the usual noting of worry regarding said drift, and time passing, and also Jack and Annie, happiness in general, that coleslaw from Milk Street I’d been too hesitant to write down even for myself as is. And suddenly, all these fluttering thoughts collided and I felt somehow closer to an important truth. Not there, but closer.  The Buddhist ideal of non-attachment began to make a little more sense. It seemed less cold and distant, more graceful and accepting than I’d interpreted before. 

Chick Peak & Black Rice (5 of 5)

Sometimes the most stirring epiphanies are those representing the things that seem like they should be the most obvious. Maybe an important key to happiness is letting go of ownership. The less we own, the less preoccupied we are with boundaries. I don’t own recipe combinations. Neither does Milk Street, for that matter (well, actually depending on copyright maybe they do, but you know what I mean). My marching-t0-four year old son is my world. I grew him from a tiny seed and his father and I love him to pieces, nourish him, revel in the weightiness of responsibility that is caring for him. Yet he is not ours. Recognizing this does not dull my love for him in the slightest, or lay the foundation for walls around my heart. If anything it makes me love him even more, if that’s possible. But remembering he is his own gives a little more peace. At least in this moment. 

The dressing for this dish is to me amazing. I’m not sure what makes it so. So simple, but everything works together (and who can scoff at coconut and lime, really?). There is no secret ingredient. You’ll take it and make it yours, and therefore better. Here’s the big corn, friends. Ultimately, the secret ingredient, always, is you.

Sweet potato and chickpea forbidden rice bowls
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  1. 2 cups black rice
  2. 1 teaspoon chili powder
  3. 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  4. 2 large sweet potatoes
  5. 1 small red onion, peeled and cut in wedges
  6. cooking spray
  7. salt and pepper to taste
  8. 3 tablespoons lime juice
  9. 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
  10. 1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
  11. 2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
  12. 1/2 cup coconut milk
  13. 4 cups baby kale or mixed greens
  1. Prepare the rice: Cook 2 cups in 3 ½ cups water. Rinse under cold water. Bring water and a pinch of salt to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low, cook until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 35 minutes.
  2. Coat chickpeas with chili powder and set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange sweet potatoes and onions on a baking sheet and coat generously with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven to turn with a spatula and add chickpeas. Bake for a further 15 -20 minutes, turning once.
  4. Prepare the dressing: in a small bowl, whisk remaining ingredients through coconut milk to combine.
  5. Add half the dressing to rice, stirring to coat. Divide rice into serving bowls, then top with equal amounts of kale/greens mix, sweet potatoes, onions and chickpeas. Drizzle remaining dressing evenly on top. Enjoy!
Happy Apple Natural Kitchen http://www.happyapplekitchen.com/

Recipe Roundup!

So a whole bunch of recipes for Ancient Harvest have been posted, and I haven’t had time to share the links! Rather than let this become like the email that doesn’t ever get sent because it’s not thorough enough though, I’m taking the  approach that a text is better than silence. Here you go, quick links, a little description:

Kale, fennel and citrus quinoa salad: If you haven’t tried roasted fennel, do! It’s like vegetable candy. The sliced almonds really round out the flavors and textures.

quinoa nicoise salad (14)

Nicoise salad with ancient grains: Ancient Harvest’s Sea Salt & Herb Culinary Ancient Grains blend is PERFECT as a base for the gorgeous array of colors and quality ingredients. This was really fun to photograph (and eat/share).

lentil_bolog (10)

Lentil bolognese: I LOVE this. It’s going to be a serious go-to. So easy to assemble, hearty and versatile. Easy to add to and re-purpose as soup or stew later in the week, and just the right touch of heat!

choc_pudding (4)

Mexican chocolate quinoa pudding: Fudgy and so meltaway good warm. Delicious chilled, too…and EASY.

Maple cinnamon quinoa granola: Have I already shared this link? Either way, it’s become my favorite granola to make.


Spinach salad with quinoa, pomegranate and persimmons: Beautiful and luscious, but I think we’re wandering into repeat territory now for sure, so going to quit with the commentary, except to say

Asian sesame ginger macaroni salad has become another favorite standby–can be quickly made, prepped ahead, done in stages, changed up to suit your mood…also love

Tomato seafood stew with red lentil rotelle, Moroccan vegetable noodle soup and this arrabiatta!

“Snail mail” equivalent soon! 🙂



Easy dairy free tuna salad

Dave joked the other day, “My favorite part of being vegan is the recipes you make with fish or eggs.” Ha. This is so easy I don’t really want to call it a “recipe”, but to me it came as a fun surprise so I wanted to share.


I was going to make a “Better-than-tuna-salad” from The Vegan Table using chickpeas, but decided to modify it quite a bit…like by using tuna. Whether we’re in a transition or denial phase, firmly settled as happy “flexitarians”, or whatever, I really like this salad. I love garbanzo bean greatness. Talk about happy-go-lucky, party hardy little legumes. Plain, ground, toasted, pureed, smashed and mashed, they’ve got protein, fiber, iron, folate, manganese, and more. They’re adorably roly-poly, and their name sounds like a Muppet. They can sub in for flour in cookies, or simulate cheese spread, so the brilliance with which they can dress up a can of tuna isn’t really news, I guess.

I could say more, but that’s all I have time for, so will spare the rambling, mostly. Today Dave is running the North Fork 50-miler, and Felix and I are on our own. So far we’ve hiked, dog-walked, explored toys and water table, had a green smoothie breakfast, and played with folding laundry before Monkey’s morning nap. Later, plans are to see friends, go to the library, splash pad or baby pool, meals, and who know what else. It’s funny to think that the whole time, or just about, Dave will be running. My turn next, depending on his report. More soon. 🙂

Easy dairy free tuna salad
These quantities are really rough…and I like it best with a little bit of chopped pickles thrown in, but it’s so easy, anything goes.

  • 1 5-oz can water-packed tuna
  • 1/2 cup cooked or canned chick peas
  • 1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
  • handful of parsley
  • 1/4 cup or less diced onion
  • dash salt and pepper to taste

Throw everything tuna through onion in the food processor and pulse to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Deliciously simple poached salmon with garlicky spinach and tomatoes

I never really paid much attention to recipes labeled “Quick & Easy” until now. Frankly, I found them kind of dull. I wasn’t especially challenged, nor did I learn anything from them. Now, the learning and the challenge are all about speed and efficiency. The Question of the Day is invariably a form of, just how marvelously fast can I be whipping around the kitchen like a little tornado without causing harm to anything? When a healthy meal is accomplished with rapidity minus said tornado and minimal mess is incurred…oh, gorgeous. That recipe is a keeper for sure.


Like this salmon.

Riley's a watchful babysitter.

Riley’s a watchful babysitter.

This recipe gives new definition to Quick, and also to Easy. Even better, it’s delicious too, and can be adapted for a whole host of fishes and vegetables. I’ve had it with cod, adding a bunch of squash and mushrooms to the sauce, as well as the salmon. I’ll admit, I’ve leaned on the odd can and frozen vegetables here and there recently, what with it being winter and the time-saving aspects, but it’s not necessary.  Each time we’ve had this so far, I spent maybe 5 minutes prep getting the tomato mixture in the skillet before Little Monkey’s nursing/bedtime routine; when he was tucked in his crib, all I had to do was sprinkle salt and pepper on the fish, place it on top of the vegetable mixture, and let it poach 15 minutes while I got to be my high-energy tornado self elsewhere in the house, accomplishing at least one task that once took twice the time or more. Beautiful.

Poached salmon/fish with garlicky spinach and tomatoes
serves 3-4

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • good shake of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen spinach
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3-4 salmon fillets (roughly 4 ounce each)
  1. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed pepper flakes and cook gently until fragrant, a minute or two
  2. Add tomatoes, spinach, wine, and seasoning. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer  (about 5 minutes or as long as you need to until you’re ready to add the fish).
  3. Bring heat to medium-low; season fish with salt and pepper and place on top of tomato mixture. Cover and cook  until fish is cooked through and easily flakes with a fork, about 10 minutes.
  4. Serve fish over vegetable mixture, spooning some of the liquid on top.

Veggie-packed light “pad thai”

pad_thai2I’m not sure when it was exactly that I stopped hating–or at least strongly disliking–Chinese food. Whenever that was, I went straight to loving it. I think there was a moment, staring at my 15-year old reflection aboard a train careening through the Chinese countryside; something clicked about the majesty, mystique, and complex contradictions that belonged to that culture, when I realized it was shameful that I’d allowed myself to be ashamed of my mixed heritage.

Even as a baby, it seems I had some kind of innate aversion to being half Chinese. My mom recounts how, when she would try to speak to me in Cantonese, the 12-toned cacophony caused such distress I shrieked my lungs out. In the then homogenous town that was home through 4th grade, kids would wear pins that said “kiss me, I’m Italian”. I regularly got teased with “ching chongs”, and fingers stretching faces to create slanted eyes. I pretty much cried every day for a couple of years. It pains me to think how much that must have hurt my mom, who worked her butt off getting into the schools and striving to introduce beauty and diversity and respect for worlds far away.

When my sisters and I were given the gift of joining our parents on a state goodwill mission to China, three weeks provided an education worth a lifetime, no matter how much hard info we would retain from the journey. Treated to a talent show by a primary school, I was moved near to tears by the talent and the passion exploding on stage. Suddenly “Chinese” meant real people, not just an adjective I tried to avoid.

By the time I traveled to Taiwan to spend a year teaching English in between college and grad school, my taste buds had matured, and I truly loved Asian food. It was then I discovered another side of being half Chinese. To the Taiwanese, I was not Chinese. I was very clearly American, maybe even Latino. Unlike American Chinese who looked fully the part, there was no expectation that I should already speak Mandarin. When my Chinese friends learned my mom was from Hong Kong, they were shocked.

That year my family flew into Taipei after Christmas to visit, and I planned a lunch including Chinese and other ex-pat friends. I’d thought I’d done a pretty good job of preparing Asian dishes; but as we were eating, I overheard some of my Chinese friends asking one another whether or not they’d ever had Western food before. Since then, I’ve jumped at the opportunity to identify food as “fusion”. I never make Chinese food, only fusion. I don’t authentically know how. Maybe one day…but I think fusion is beautiful.

cutiefaceNow that I’m a mom, there is a new profundity accompanying the recognition that shame is something we learn. I look at my sweet baby boy, and the purity of his innocence jumps out at me. It causes a pang or two here and there for it’s temporal nature. He will face, have to deal with and make sense of, countless challenges, prejudices, injustices, and hurts. They will change and shape him in ways I can’t begin to imagine or hope to protect him from. I hope to help him develop a moral sense that brings with it regret and desire to right his negative choices. But no matter what, I with with a full heart he never be ashamed of who he is.

For a long time now, any kind of Asian food is not only up there with my favorites, it carries kind of a a festive feel to it. At new year, some kind of noodle dish has to happen.  I guess it stems partly from a blend of superstition and respect for the Asian tradition of “long life noodles” at the new year, bringing the eater what the name suggests. OK, pad thai’s not Chinese, but as I said, all my attempts at Asian food are “fusion” anyway, and it’s awfully good.

This is just loosely “pad thai”. It happens to be (of course) easy to prepare and full of veggies and potential for variation. This year, as our holiday plans temporarily collapsed in one stressful day, Asian-inspired noodle dishes are appearing sooner and more often. They make me feel closer to family.

 pad_thaiLight vegetable pad thai

  • 6 ounces dried wide rice noodles
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 8 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • approximately 6 cups mixed vegetables of choice: I used a red bell pepper, a small broccoli crown, mushrooms, and some bean sprouts
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light soy or tamari sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • dash cracked red pepper
  • generous splash of lime
  • Chopped dry-roasted peanuts
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until just al dente, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain.
  2. Heat oil in a wok or large deep skillet over high heat until very hot. Add garlic and vegetable mix and stir-fry about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate or bowl.
  3. Add eggs to skillet and cook, stirring, until scrambled, about a minute. Add shrimp and the reserved vegetables; stir-fry until the shrimp curl and turn pink, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the noodles,  scallions, vinegar, fish sauce, soy/tamari sauce, honey, pepper, and lime juice; toss until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. If desired, sprinkle with peanuts.

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